Top 10 Controversial Season Finales
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Garrett Alden
These season-enders had us abuzz. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 controversial season finales in TV.
For this list, we're looking at the concluding episodes of TV seasons, including series finales, that most inspired controversy and divisiveness among their fan bases. We're not saying that any of these entries is bad, just that they inspired some conflicting reactions in viewers. Also, a spoiler alert is in order.
Have an idea you want to see made into a WatchMojo video? Check out our suggest page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest and submit your idea.
Top 10 Controversial Season Finales
These season-enders had us abuzz. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 controversial season finales in TV.
For this list, we’re looking at the concluding episodes of TV seasons, including series finales, that most inspired controversy and divisiveness among their fan bases. We’re not saying that any of these entries is bad, just that they inspired some conflicting reactions in viewers. Also, a spoiler alert is in order.
#10: “Beyond Life and Death”
This surreal cult hit series from surreal cult hit creator David Lynch isn’t for everyone, and its original finale exemplified that perfectly. And this episode in particular features some of the bizarre, ambiguous sequences that make Lynch such a divisive director. With the final moments depicting a seemingly possessed, bloody, and deranged Agent Dale Cooper, fans were left confused and disappointed that they would seemingly be left without any resolution. Fortunately, a prequel film the following year resolved some of the cliffhangers, and cleared the way for the 2017 revival series to bamboozle fans all over again.
“Twin Peaks” (1990-91)
#9: “Last Day on Earth”
The season six finale of this zombie apocalypse saw the long-awaited introduction to the villainous warlord Negan. Unfortunately, the episode took the long-awaited part a little literally, since the episode was almost twice the usual length, with many pointing out that it lacked the material to justify the longer run time. The cliffhanger at the end was also widely criticized as exploitative, yet predictable. Ultimately, for some viewers the episode epitomized the biggest criticisms against the show: that it takes too long to get anywhere and relies on shock value to keep people tuning in.
“The Walking Dead” (2010-)
#8: “Hell Bent”
Although well-received by critics, the concluding episode of “Doctor Who” season nine split the fandom. After years of waiting, the Doctor, and viewers, finally return to his home planet, Gallifrey, in what at first looks like a political thriller akin to past Gallifrey stories. Things take a hard left turn however, when the Doctor decides to break the laws of time to save his companion Clara, who died two episodes prior. Many fans were upset that the Doctor broke his own moral code, even committing murder, to resurrect a character whose recent exit was arguably more fitting and emotionally fulfilling. The conclusion of the season’s story arc, meanwhile, was also seen as rather weak and vague.
“Doctor Who” (1963-89; 2005-)
#7: “The Graduates”
The third season finale of this primetime soap sees the teenage members of the cast graduate high school and Ryan preparing to leave town for good. Things take a turn for the tragic however, when a car wreck leads to Marissa’s death. A divisive figure in the show’s history, Marissa’s turbulent character arc seemed destined for tragedy, but her tribulations had contributed to a great deal of the show’s drama; leaving viewers up in arms about how the show would go forward without her.
“The O.C.” (2003-07)
#6: “Birth 101”
The culmination of a season-long story arc about the titular journalist’s pregnancy, this finale saw Murphy Brown give birth to a son. Her decision to raise it alone drew criticism from real life politician, and then Vice President, Dan Quayle, who felt that a father’s role is also very important in a child’s life. The episode, and Quayle’s remarks, sparked a national conversation about the nature of the modern family and laid the groundwork for more representation of single mothers on television, proving that sometimes controversy can lead to positive change.
“Murphy Brown” (1988-98)
#5: “Face Off”
Yes, even a critical and audience darling like “Breaking Bad” isn’t immune to controversy. Backed into a corner by his rival and employer Gustavo Fring, Walter White desperately tries to outmaneuver his opponent. After much struggle and some crucial information from his partner Jesse, Walt manages to kill Gus by exploiting a mutual enemy’s desire for revenge. What’s the problem then? To win over Jesse, Walt’s plan involves an elaborate ruse that involves poisoning a child. Walt’s transition from an anti-hero to root for, into an arguably villainous protagonist was too much for some to handle.
“Breaking Bad” (2008-13)
#4: “The Finale”
The show about nothing’s big finale stirred up a whole lot of something. Jerry and the gang are put on trial after they stand by and watch a man get robbed. What follows is a parade of past guest stars who are called as character witnesses, to show how terrible the hilarious foursome is. While seeing old faces again was welcomed, fans and critics alike felt disappointment at the direction the finale took, as many felt judged for becoming invested in characters deemed to be bad people. Some of the best finales are celebrations of their shows, but we can see why there are those who find this one to be the opposite.
#3: “Mother’s Mercy”
Killing off fan-favorite characters is always going to be controversial, and “Game of Thrones” is particularly infamous for doing so on a regular basis. Jon Snow’s apparent death in this episode engendered one of the strongest backlashes yet though, particularly as the book series had not yet resolved the cliffhanger and depicted the sequence more ambiguously – and less graphically – than the TV show. This finale also drew controversy for Cersei Lannister’s now iconic nude walk of shame, which was built on events earlier in the season that had already drawn fire for degrading women. Still, you don’t get to be one of the biggest things on TV without causing some hullabaloo.
“Game of Thrones” (2011-)
#2: “Made in America”
“The Sopranos” (1999-2007)
The series finale of the game-changing crime drama still elicits discussion to this day, primarily due to its ending. With their futures very much uncertain, the Soprano family gathers at a diner, with Meadow arriving late. As the door chimes, Tony looks up and the scene cuts to black. Was it his daughter arriving, or was it Tony’s rivals coming to finish him off? The ending was so abrupt, it had some people wondering if part of it had been lost on broadcast or in their recording. A finale that leaves the fate of its characters this ambiguous is a bold choice and one that fans and critics have debated ever since.
#1: “The End”
This epic, almost 2-hour series finale of the much talked about and often divisive show is, appropriately, much discussed and very divisive. While most found the action on the Island, including the confrontation between Jack and Locke, to be thrilling and in keeping with the series’ themes, much criticism has been leveled at the revelation that the so-called “flash-sideways” depicting the characters in another life were actually visions of their experiences in the afterlife. Although some have praised the afterlife elements for helping wrap up character arcs and giving resolution to past cast members, enough people were as invested, or more so, in the series’ mysteries - many of which were left unresolved.